Music

The Sailor’s Alphabet

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The Sailor’s Alphabet

A’s for the anchor that lies at the bow
B’s for the bowsprit the jibs all lie ‘low
C for the capstan we all run around,
D’s for the davits to lower the boats down

(Chorus)
Merrily, merrily
So merry sail we, no mortal on earth like a sailor at sea (and it’s)
Heave away, haul away, the ship rolls along
Give a sailor his grog and there’s nothing goes wrong

E’s for the ensign that up the mast flew
F is the fo’c’sle where lives the whole crew
G’s for the galley where the salt junk smells strong
H for the halyards we hoist with a song

(Chorus)

I for the eyebolts, no good for the feet
J’s for the jibs, boy, stand by the lee sheet
K’s for the knighthead where the petty officer stands
L’s for the leeside, hard found by new hands

(Chorus)

M is the mainmast, it’s stout and it’s strong
N’s for the needle, it never points wrong
O’s for the oars of our old jolly boat
P’s for the pinnace that lively does float

(Chorus)

Q is the quarterdeck where the officers stand
R’s for the rudder, keeps the ship in command
S for the stunsails that drive her along
T’s for the topmast, to get there takes long

(Chorus)

U’s for the uniforms, mostly worn aft
V’s for the vang running from the main gaff
W’s for the water, we’re on the pint and the pound
X marks the spot where old Stormy was drowned

(Chorus)

Y’s for the yardarm, needs a good sailor man
Zed is for Zoey, I’m her fancy man
Zed’s also for zero in the cold winter time
And now we have set all the letters in rhyme

(Chorus)

Print Notes Notes

This is not one of my own songs, but an old sailor’s chanty used to help sailors keep a steady rhythm while doing heavy work. Its’ not a bad way to review the alphabet for very young kids, to introduce the parts of a sailing vessel for older students, or to show how people work together: when a dozen or more people are hauling on a line (that’s a rope to us landlubbers), poor timing could cause severe rope burns, damaged cargo, or even a lost finger. Chanteys helped the sailors work as a team.

I taught this song to my son’s fourth grade class when they spent the night on a more-or-less accurate reproduction of the brig Pilgrim as a culmination for reading Richard Henry Dana’s book Two Years Before The Mast. I went along as a chaperone.

Like Dana’s voyage, our overnight trip was mixed. I mean, it was a mix of a sailor-themed LARP and some crazy scared-straight intervention program. The captain and crew of the brig never broke character in front of the kids, said characters being psychotic and sadistic sea dogs bent on whipping a bunch of frightened nine-year-olds into shape at all costs before reaching the Strait of Magellan. The learning parts were great, but the role-playing was (in my opinion as a veteran geek role-player) way over the top. As a suggestion, whenever the children are crying and asking for their mommies might be a good time to dial it down. They can always go to boot camp when they’re older.